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Probe Ministries > Faith and Science > Origins > Darwinism and Truth


Darwinism and Truth Print E-mail

Written by Kerby Anderson

Darwinism and the Fact/Value Split

Nancy Pearcey writes in her book Total Truth that Christians must counter the effects of our secular culture and mindset by developing a consistent and comprehensive biblical worldview.{1} In the middle chapters of her book, she demonstrates how Christians should do this with the question of origins.

Earlier in her book she notes that our society has divided truth into two categories. She calls this the sacred /secular split or the private/public split or the fact/value split. They are different ways of saying the same thing. Religion and moral values are subjective and shoved into the upper story where private opinions and values reside. And in the lower story are hard, verifiable facts and scientific knowledge.

There is another key point to this split. The two spheres should not intersect. In other words, it would be bad manners and a violation of logic to allow your personal and private choices and values to intersect with your public life. As the popular saying goes, that would be "shoving your religion down someone's throat."

Ray Bohlin's review of Pearcey's book provides further explanation for how this idea plays out in society.{2}

Darwinists accept this split and have even tried to convince Christians that in this way religion is safe from the claims and conclusions of Darwinian evolution. But a brief glance at the best seller list shows that evolutionists regularly invade this upper story of values with their harsh criticism.

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins says that religious belief is psychotic, and arguments for the existence of God are nonsense. Sam Harris echoes that sentiment in his bestselling book, Letter to a Christian Nation. Daniel Dennett, in his book Breaking the Spell, believes that religion must be subjected to scientific evaluation.

Nancy Pearcey shows that Darwinism leads to naturalism. And this is a naturalistic view of knowledge where "theological dogmas and philosophical absolutes were at worst totally fraudulent and at best merely symbolic of deep human aspirations."{3} In other words, if Darwinian evolution is true, then religion and philosophical absolutes are not true. Truth, honesty, integrity, morality are not true but actually fraudulent concepts and ideas. If we hold to them at all, they were merely symbolic but not really true in any sense.

Daniel Dennett, in his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea, says that Darwinism is a "universal acid" which is his allusion to a children's riddle about an acid that is so corrosive that it eats through everything including the flask that holds it. In other words, Darwinism is too corrosive to be contained. It eats through every academic field of study and destroys ethics, morality, truth, and absolutes. When it is finished, Darwinism "eats through just about every traditional concept and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view."{4}

Darwinism and Naturalism

Pearcey writes that "Darwinism functions as the scientific support for an overarching naturalistic worldview."{5} Today scientists usually assume that scientific investigation requires naturalism. But that was not always the case.

When the scientific revolution began (and for the next three hundred years), science and Christianity were considered to be compatible with one another. In fact, most scientists had some form of Christian faith, and they perceived the world of diversity and complexity through a theistic framework. Pearcey points out that Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and others sought to understand the world and use their gifts to honor God and serve humanity.

By the nineteenth century, secular trends began to change their perspective. This culminated with the publication of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. His theory of evolution provided the needed foundation for naturalism to explain the world without God. From that point on, social commentators began to talk about the "war between science and religion."

By the twentieth century, G. K. Chesterton was warning that Darwinian evolution and naturalism was becoming the dominant "creed" in education and the other public arenas of Western culture. He said it "began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics." Ultimately, it "is really our established Church."{6}

Today, it is easy to see how scientists believe that naturalism and science are essentially the same thing. They often slip from physics to metaphysics. In other words, they leave the boundaries of science and begin to make philosophical statements about the nature of the universe. While scientists can tell us how the universe operates, they cannot tell us if there is anything outside of the universe.

But that didn't stop astronomer Carl Sagan in the PBS program "Cosmos." The first words you hear from him are: "The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be."{7} In other words, the universe (or Cosmos) is all there is: no God, no heaven.

Now, Carl Sagan's comment is not a scientific statement. It's a philosophical statement. And it set the ground rules for the rest of the program. Nature is all there is. In many ways it sounds like a creed. It is as if Carl Sagan was attempting to modify the Gloria Patri: "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever will be."

Do those ideas end up in our children's books? Nancy Pearcey tells the story of picking up a science book for her son, The Bears' Nature Guide, which featured the Berenstain Bears. The Bear family goes on a nature walk. Turn a few pages in the book and you will see a sunrise with these words in capital letters: "Nature . . . is all that IS, or WAS, or EVER WILL BE!"{8} Sounds like a heavy dose of Carl Sagan's naturalism packaged for young children courtesy of the Berenstain Bears.

If you are looking for a resource to counter this Darwinian and naturalistic indoctrination, let me recommend Probe's DVD series on "Redeeming Darwin." It will give you the intellectual ammunition you need.

In Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey discusses many of the so-called "icons of evolution" that Jonathan Wells documents in his book by that title.{9} These examples show up in nearly every high school and college biology textbook. But these examples which are used to "prove" evolution are either fraudulent or fail to prove evolution.

Let's start with a piece of evidence for evolution that was found where Charles Darwin first got his inspiration for his theory of evolution: the Galapagos Islands. The islands can be found off the coast of South America. On those islands are finches, which have come to be known as Darwin's finches. It's hard to find a biology textbook that doesn't tell the story of these finches.

One study found that during a period of drought, the average beak size of these finches increased slightly. The reason cited for this is that during these dry periods, the most available seeds are larger and tougher to crack than at other times. So birds with larger beaks do better in conditions of drought.

I spent an afternoon looking at specimens of Darwin's finches when I was in graduate school at Yale University and should point out that the changes in beak thickness is minimal and thus measured in tens of millimeters (thickness of a thumbnail). Moreover, the changes seem to be cyclical. When the rains returns, the original size seeds appear and the average beak size returns to normal.

This is not evolution. It is an interesting cyclical pattern in natural history. But it's not evolution. Nevertheless, one science writer enthusiastically proclaimed that this is evolution happening "before [our] very eyes."{10}

If this is evolution occurring then we should be seeing macro changes that would allow these finches to evolve into another species. But this cyclical pattern shows just the opposite. These minor changes in beak size and thickness actually allow them to remain finches under changing environmental conditions. It does not show them evolving into another species.

So what has been the response from the scientific establishment? The National Academy of Sciences put out a booklet on evolution for teachers. The booklet did not even mention that the average beak size returned to normal after drought. Instead the booklet makes unwarranted speculation about what might happen if these changes were to continue indefinitely for a few hundred years. "If droughts occur about once every ten years on the islands, a new species of finch might arise in only 200 years."{11}

Is this an accurate conclusion based upon the facts of natural history? It seems to be a clear example of misleading teachers (who in turn will unintentionally mislead their students). The booklet teaches that the beak sizes in Darwin's finches are directional and evolutionary rather than cyclical and reversible.

A column in the Wall Street Journal made this point. "When our leading scientists have to resort to the sort of distortion that would land a stock promoter in jail," Phillip Johnson said, "you know they are in trouble."{12}

Ray Bohlin's review of Jonathan Well's book, Icons of Evolution, provides further detail on some of these examples.{13}

Peppered Moths

One example that appears in most biology textbooks is the story of the peppered moths in England. The moths appear in two forms: dark gray and light gray. During the Industrial Revolution, the factories produced pollution that darkened the tree trunks. This made it easier for birds to catch and eat the lighter colored moths. Later, when pollution was cleaned up, the tree trunks were lighter and it made it easier for the birds to catch the darker colored moths.

On its face, all this example proves is that the ratio of dark colored and light colored moths changed over time. In many ways, this is nothing more than another example of cyclical changes that we just discussed concerning Darwin's finches.

But there is much more to the story. Peppered moths don't actually perch on tree trunks. Actually they are quite torpid during the daylight hours and rest in the upper canopy of the trees.

If you have ever been in a biology class you have seen pictures of these moths on the tree trunks. You might even have seen a film that was made decades ago of birds landing on the trees and catching moths. It turns out that in order to create the photos and the film scientists put the moths in a freezer to immobilize them and then glued them to the tree trunks.

How did this example become such an enduring icon of evolution? Scientists accepted it for many years uncritically because they wanted to believe it and needed a visual example to show evolution. The peppered moth story fit the bill and quickly became "an irrefutable article of faith."{14}

Now there are journal articles, and even books, that document the scientific scandal surrounding the story of the peppered moths. One leading evolutionist noted that the story was a "prize horse in our stable of examples." He goes on to say that when he learned the truth, it was like learning "that it was my father and not Santa Claus who brought the presents on Christmas Eve."{15}

But what is so amazing is that this example still shows up with regularity in biology textbooks, even though most scientists and textbook writers know the story is untrue. One reporter even interviewed a textbook writer who admitted that he knew the photos were faked but used them in the biology textbook anyway. "The advantage of this example," he argued, "is that it is extremely visual." He went on to add that "we want to get across the idea of selective adaptation. Later on, they can look at the work critically."{16}

The examples of the falsified "icons of evolution" demonstrate the extremes to which many Darwinists will go to "prove" the theory of evolution. They keep an incorrect example in the textbooks simply because it is visual and supports the theory of evolution and worldview of naturalism.

Fraudulent Embryos

Nearly every textbook has pictures of developing vertebrate embryos lined up across the page to demonstrate an evolutionary history being replayed in the womb. These pictures are placed there to show common ancestry and thus prove evolution. During this day, Charles Darwin called the similarity of vertebrate embryos "by far the strongest single class of facts in favor of" his theory of evolution.{17}

In biology class many of us learned the phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." That means that these developing embryos go through similar stages that replay the stages of evolution. So this supposedly was embryological proof of evolution.

But it turns out that the pictures were and are an elaborate hoax. German scientist Ernst Haeckel drew them in order to prove evolution. He deliberately drew the embryos more similar than they really are.

What is so incredible about this hoax is that is was known more than a century ago. Scientists knew the drawings were incorrect, and his colleagues accused him of fraud. An embryologist, writing in the journal Science, called Haeckel's drawings "one of the most famous fakes in biology."{18}

Now you would think that a hoax uncovered more than a hundred years ago would certainly not make it into high school and college biology textbooks. But if you assumed that, you would be wrong. Many textbooks continue to reprint drawings labeled as a hoax a century ago.

So why do Darwinists continue to believe in the theory of evolution and even use examples to "prove" evolution that are not true. It may be due to a bias in their worldview. The only theories that they believe are acceptable are those that are developed within a naturalistic framework.

Richard Dawkins noted: "Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory . . . we would still be justified in preferring it over rival theories."{19} Think about that statement for a moment. Even if there were no evidence for evolution, Darwinists would still believe it because it is naturalistic.

Another professor made an even more incredible statement. He said: "Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic."{20} Now think about that. Even if the evidence points to intelligent design rather than to evolution, it is excluded from consideration because it is not naturalistic.

As you can see from these two quotes (as well as from some of the other material presented here), the commitment to evolution is more philosophical than scientific. Nancy Pearcey concludes that "the issue is not fundamentally a matter of evidence at all, but of a prior philosophical commitment."{21}

Again, let me also recommend Probe's DVD series on "Redeeming Darwin" that is available through Probe's website www.probe.org.

Notes

1. Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004).
2. Raymond Bohlin, "Total Truth," Probe, 2005, www.probe.org/theology-and-philosophy/worldview--philosophy/total-truth.html.
3. Edward Purcell, The Crisis of Democracy (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1973), 8.
4. Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1995), 63.
5. Pearcey, Total Truth, 207.
6. G. K. Chesterton, Eugenics and Other Evils (NY: Dodd, Mead, 1927), 98.
7. Carl Sagan, Cosmos (NY: Random House, 1980), 4.
8. Pearcey, Total Truth, 157.
9. Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2000).
10. Jonathan Weiner, "Kansas anti-evolution vote denies students a full spiritual journey," Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 August 1999.
11. Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, National Academy of Sciences, chapter 2, page 19, www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/evolution98.
12. Phillip Johnson, "The Church of Darwin," Wall Street Journal, 16 August 1999.
13. Ray Bohlin, "Icons of Evolution," Probe, 2001, www.probe.org/faith-and-science/origins/icons-of-evolution.html.
14. Peter Smith, "Darwinism in a flutter," book review of: Of Moths and Men: Intrigue, Tragedy, and the Peppered Moth, The Guardian, 11 May 2002.
15. Jerry Coyne, "Not black and white," book review of: Melanism: Evolution in Action, Nature 396(5 November 1998), 35.
16. Bob Ritter quoted in "Moth-eaten Darwinism: A disproven textbook case of natural selection refuses to die," Alberta Report Newsmagazine, 5 April 1999.
18. Michael Richardson, quoted in Pennisi, "Haeckel's Embryos: Fraud rediscovered," Science 277 (5 September 1997), 1435.
19. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (NY: Norton, 1986), 287, emphasis in original.
20. S.C. Todd, "A view from Kansas on that evolution debate," Nature, 30 September 1999, 423.
21. Pearcey, Total Truth, 169.

© 2007 Probe Ministries


About the Author

Kerby AndersonKerby Anderson is president of Probe Ministries International. He holds masters degrees from Yale University (science) and from Georgetown University (government). He is the author of several books, including Christian Ethics in Plain Language, Genetic Engineering, Origin Science, Signs of Warning, Signs of Hope and Making the Most of Your Money in Tough Times. His new series with Harvest House Publishers includes: A Biblical Point of View on Islam, A Biblical Point of View on Homosexuality, A Biblical Point of View on Intelligent Design and A Biblical Point of View on Spiritual Warfare. He is the host of "Point of View" (USA Radio Network) heard on 360 radio outlets nationwide as well as on the Internet (www.pointofview.net) and shortwave. He is also a regular guest on "Prime Time America" (Moody Broadcasting Network) and "Fire Away" (American Family Radio). He produces a daily syndicated radio commentary and writes editorials that have appeared in papers such as the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury, and the Houston Post.

 

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